Worcestershire Academy player Xavie Clarke has earned his first call-up for the ‘Super Fours’ which will be staged next week at the National Performance Centre, Loughborough.
Clarke – the younger brother of County first teamer Joe – is one of three Worcestershire Academy players chosen in the Midlands team for what is effectively the Under-17s equivalent of the Bunburys.
Jack Haynes and Zain Ul-Hassan have been chosen for ‘Super Fours’ for the second time.
The duo were initially called up in 2017 when, along with Academy paceman Adam Finch, they helped the Midlands to a 50 over and T20 double in a squad coached by Worcestershire Academy Coach Elliot Wilson.
The tournament will offer the cream of the players in the Under-17s age group the opportunity to show off their skills in front of watching England Development Programme coaches and selectors.
Worcestershire players have figured prominently in the tournament in recent years.
Six County players – including current first teamer Josh Tongue – helped the Midlands to win the prestigious tournament three years ago
Then in 2016 last year Josh Haynes and Finch, who had initially been named on stand-by, were involved.
Elliot Wilson said: “This year Jack Haynes, Zain Ul-Hassan and Xavie Clarke are off to the Super-Fours. Jack and Zain went in 2017 along with Adam Finch and since then Adam and Jack have gone onto play for the England Under-19s.
“Xavie is joining in this year after a really good solid year with Shrewsbury School and ourselves but, more importantly, the way he plays and the options he’s got, he’s quite a skilful, high potential cricketer.
“He deserves the opportunity to go to the Super Fours next week and hopefully he shows people what he is about
“Jack has been well thought of for a long period of time and is getting opportunities to play second team cricket, England Under-190 cricket, and he made his County debut against West Indies A this summer.
“He will go there and will be hoping to have a positive impact during the week.
“Zain is a hell of a cricketer. In my eyes, he is a real option for Worcestershire County Cricket Club moving forward. He bats, he bowls, he fields well.
“He goes about his business quietly. He competes in every game he plays in with bat and ball. He struggled the first half of this summer in terms of just having opportunities to get to the wicket for the second team and on Saturdays.
“But the second half of the season he has been much improved, having spent a lot more time batting and he has carried on bowling very tidily and sensibly all year with high skill.”
Clarke is a pupil at Shrewsbury School and plays Birmingham League cricket for Oswestry – alongside Joe when his County commitments allow.
Haynes is at Malvern College and plays for Ombersley at weekends while Ul-Hassan is at college in Stourbridge and performs for Barnt Green at weekends alongside Worcestershire Coach Andy Sutton.
Young Lions head coach Jon Lewis will challenge several youngsters who have played for England Under-19s this summer to produce dominant performances in the Super Fours.
Lewis called up a number of 17-year-olds during the two Youth Tests and the three-match Royal London One-Day Series against South Africa in July, and hopes they will reap an early dividend from that experience when they return to their age group.
This year’s Super-Fours carries an extra significance as it will be Lewis’s first chance to study all the leading contenders for places in the next ICC Under-19s World Cup.
Last year’s Super-4s provided the launchpad for players such as Fin Trenouth, Prem Sisodiya, Finch and the Middlesex trio of Savin Perera, Jack Davies and Luke Hollman to clinch places in the England squad for the last World Cup in New Zealand earlier this year.
Now for the likes of Gloucestershire opener Ben Charlesworth, Haynes and Derbyshire spinner Hamidullah Qadri, all of whom have been involved with the Under-19s over the last year, there is an ideal platform to show their ability in 50-over and T20 cricket – as all will be eligible, with Hollman, for the 2020 World Cup in South Africa.
“As Jon Lewis has said, the Super-Fours will be an important first chance for him to watch the players in this age group at this level of competition,” said Mo Bobat, the ECB’s Player Identification Lead.
“It’s the only chance we have to see the best playing against the best – similar to the Bunbury Festival for Under-15s.
“For that reason, it plays quite an important part in enabling us to observe players which will inform selection for the Young Lions programmes this winter and beyond.
“We’ve had a few of the Under-17s involved with the Under-19s this summer, and that adds an extra dimension when they play in this competition – they’re expected to dominate, which adds a bit of extra pressure.”
Haynes and Qadri both featured as the Midlands won both the 50-over and T20 competitions last year.
Mal Loye, the former England batsman who is now on the development staff at Derbyshire and was part of Lewis’s Under-19s coaching staff this summer, will again be involved with the Midlands team.
“That’s another big plus of the Super-Fours,” added Bobat. “We are able to invite coaches from the County Talent Pathway to take charge of the teams, and that makes for a really interesting mix of fresh ideas and personalities.
This year Richard Halsall, the former England fielding coach who was appointed this year as Academy Director of Sussex, will take charge of the London and East team.
London and East
Head Coach: Richard Halsall
Head Coach: Mal Loye
Head Coach: Richard Damms
Head Coach: Rich Almond / Steve Snell
*Ul-Hassan will captain the Academy today (Sunday) in two T20s versus Warwickshire Under-19s at Barnt Green with the first game getting underway at 11am.